It’s high time I posted a book update. I’ve passed the halfway point in rewriting Below, and I’m on the cusp of Part 4 (of 5). The final word count for the first draft is looking to be about 110-120K based on the current pace.
While this is a work in progress, the original novella has already been written and I’m using it as the basis of the novel. It makes a lot of decisions easier, but it’s amazing how much more the characters and locations can be fleshed out at this length. In the novella the expedition only had 11 characters, thanks to my making a horribly clichéd choice with one of the early plot points, and a lot of the locations in the ruins never got fully developed. Here, though, I have more options.
This the working blurb so far:
Brenish is a small-time thief but an extraordinary con man, entrusted by a master forger to sell his life’s work: a map to a legendary treasure. The map is fake but the treasure is real: Everyone knows the late wizard Visak made his fortune in the underground ruins and left it there, safer than any bank.
Long obsessed with tales of the Elder Kingdom himself, Brenish has a different idea. If he uses the map to get investors, he can gather the equipment to take a small party down himself, find a different treasure, and use a novel escape plan of his own devising. He’s smart enough to fear the danger, but running out of time to raise enough money for marriage.
Criminal overlord Gareth St. James, whose obsession with the ruins is at least as great, has other plans. With Brenish in trouble and Gareth’s greed piqued, the plan takes shape in a way Brenish never intended. Using the fake map as their guide, he and his friends are roped into an expedition with Gareth and his henchmen: one that Gareth doesn’t know is doomed to fail. Yet in the deep, abandoned cities below, the wrath of Gareth may even be the least of his problems.
I had so much fun with this story the first time around, but it’s getting even better in long form. The book is playing out as a lot of mind games and tension between the characters—who, all being from a small town, are on a first-name basis—punctuated with cryptozoologically and magically enhanced action.
And here is the cast of characters:
Brenish is a thief with a silver tongue, making do as a highwayman. He’s an expert in ruins lore, and known for it even in the nearby city.
Naman is Brenish’s colleague and conscience, a little older and wiser and bigger and capable of hitting things he shoots at.
Cirawyn is Brenish’s love. She is canny and capable, and is the one person (sometimes including Brenish) who always knows how much of what Brenish says is a lie. Her father wants to marry her off, and disapproves of Brenish.
Tibs is a heavy-set, whip-wielding pickpocket. Though good-natured, he is no pushover and is willing to pursue his own agenda when opportunity strikes.
Harry Card is the eldest of the thieves and their one-eyed leader, and best friends with Gareth’s right-hand man. He thinks little of Brenish.
Gareth St. James is a rich and greedy businessman, taking cuts from any jobs the thieves run as highwaymen. Though older than Brenish, he is just as steeped in ruins lore and has trained in the use of many weapons.
Bob is the big lovable oaf of Gareth’s henchmen. He’s loyal to a fault, not as bright as his brother, and always manages to say the worst things at the worst times.
Raden is Bob’s younger brother, also big and lovable but a bit wiser and more his own man.
Jase is one of Gareth’s most intelligent lackeys, but also a smug jerk with a mean streak.
Turk is a faithful follower with an opaque personality. He says little, emotes less, and combs not at all.
Dex is a greasy slimeball who can be as vicious as he is capricious. He fights well, but has some other talents up his sleeve too.
Finch is the best of Gareth’s men and his closest adviser, deadly with most weapons and smarter than most other men.
And that’s the main cast. Most of the men have families, and all know each other. This means there are also loyalties, rivalries, and grudges to go around between them. Throw that into a huge, dark, underground expanse where monsters and “manthings” roam free and a good strategy can mean the difference between life and death, and you’ve got a story.
Well, I’ve got a story. And when it’s finished, you can read it.